State regulators have placed a former St. George veterinarian's license on probation and suspended his authority to prescribe certain drugs because he dispensed Ritalin for race horse training without keeping rec-ords of it, an order said.
The licensing order, said Dr. James Peter Reilly, Las Vegas, neither admits nor denies the unprofessional conduct charges brought against him by the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. But he said he agreed to the probation to settle the matter.Reilly purchased 200 doses of Methyphenidate, also called Ritalin, but didn't keep records to account for how the drug was dispensed, the order said. Reilly told investigators he sold it to horse trainers to make horses run faster, the order said, but he didn't have the documentation to prove it.
The division further noted that according to a major manufacturer of Methyphenidate, a mild central nervous system stimulant commonly used to treat hyperactive children, no studies exist supporting the effectiveness of Ritalin in training race horses.
But a St. George trainer who purchased some of the drugs from Reilly told the Deseret News that the drug works, even if no studies exist to prove it.
"I've used it a lot. In training there is nothing better to work a colt on," said Ron Ferguson, who has used Ritalin to train young race horses for 30 years.
He explained that Ritalin has a calming effect, but at the same time it makes a colt run faster than normal, which helps the animal develop good running habits early. Ferguson said he will run a colt two or three times on Ritalin, then the animal will not forget the running habits it has developed while running on the drug.
Ferguson, who learned about training horses with Ritalin from trainers in Texas and Oklahoma, said Reilly is the first veterinarian he knows of who has gotten into trouble selling the drug.
"They won't admit it, but a lot of veterinarians sell Ritalin to horse trainers," he said.
But Utah Veterinary Medical Association president and licensing board member Harold Judd Davis said dispensing a drug solely to enhance an animal's performance is not considered ethical by most veterinarians, particularly if the veterinarian doesn't keep a record of the drugs or monitor its use.